tv U.S.- Myanmar Burma Relations CSPAN September 22, 2012 8:55pm-10:10pm EDT
they didn't carry over the finish line. host: joe biden admits he does not like the budget. he does not know much about the budget. guest: he starts out saying he is not a budget guy. he declined to become chairman of the budget committee. he brought in a deputy and said, you are going to be there every day and giving me a tutorial and affirmation. you read those notes and the presentation i have and the book and joe biden mastered the issues. the problem as joe biden saw it, the republicans would not give on revenue.
no tax increases. this drove biden crazy. at one point, he yells at him. caller: that is pretty funny. i was struck with how you went with, "this is the obama era." what stood out in your book was speaker boehner's office did not return the president's phone call and a lack of communication with the president. it is almost like there is a personal weakness to have somebody to dinner so what should we even do it? guest: relationships need to be
built. i think president obama is right when a complaint that boehner would not return his phone call for almost a day. that is unheard of. the white house chief of staff goes swayback when he was an aide to tip o'neill in the 1980's. he was appalled at the speaker will not call the president back and made the point internally at the white house that when ronald reagan called, the phone call was immediately returned. boehner's argument was that he had to put together a congressional deal. he thought it would affect the financial markets.
that is his excuse. president said, "why didn't he just call and say, i am working on it." it was the silence that offended the president and the white house staff. boehner did call and said he was backing out. one of the aides who work with them for years said he was spewing coals like a furnace in the oval office that day. the worry was the president was so furious when he was on the phone that he would literally break the phone. scott pelley asked if he was in
a phone-breaking mood. the president said he was very angry. host: you write about it lack of deference on the democratic side, too. why do you think that is? guest: a lot has to do with harry reid, who goes to a meeting with the president on a sunday night at 6:00 p.m. go to the meeting and you can see what happens. one of the most interesting meetings i've ever reported on. harry reid has developed a plan with the republicans. he turns it over to his chief of staff who sits in the oval office and reads out the president and said, i'm disappointed in this
white house and in you, that you did not have a plan b. they did not have a plan b. afterwards, there were arriving back from the white house and said, you did a good job. the president needed to hear caller: you are an insider -- guest: i'm an outsider trying to report what happened. we're all struggling.
caller: they had all these guys on their. caller: they had all these guys on c-span the other day trying to explain how to get past the political roadblocks that we have had trying to come up with these 6 or whenever. i noticed one thing true that conference. they always talk about the g.d.p. it seems like those in washington, they forget that outside of washington people are working. that's what really drives the american economy. through that, i see that they also fail to understand that this country seems to be going through a technical logical -- technocological change. we have seen changes in the music and the computer industry. guest: if i may quickly answered? there is a disconnect between
washington and the real world when you refer to g.d.p., gross domestic product, which is the total of goods and services in the economy. the problem is it's not enough. there's too much unemployment, none of the growth. people are not hiring. we have a come to this fiscal cliff, as they call it. it is actually misnamed. it is a financial crisis. you will have a government- induced recession if these tax cuts are eliminated so taxes will go up and these cuts and program in for 2013 will affect everyone. in the book, treasury secretary timothy geithner argues with the president of the him in in
these discussions -- vehemently that if we do not straighten this out in the short run, hopefully the long run, that the impact on everyone is going to be giant. it will affect confidence. it will affect employment levels. anyone who has any money or anticipates getting any money that they have invested in their home, bank account come any kind of investment is going to be impacted by all of this. -- bank account, at any kind of investment, is going to be impacted. we are living on the sharp edge of a razor blade. this all explodes. not this week but in two, three, four months after the election. if there is no fix, we are really in trouble.
host: first cannonballs and press -- erskine bowles and alice simpson were on "meet the press." ersking bowles was asked what is next. here is what he had to say. [video clip] >> i'm frightened that we are going to meet this fiscal cliff and see this debt to country. it could lead to very horrible economic results. i met with the president. >> you took the ax. >> i did. >> we were not looking to do that, but i'm confident talk of the election that he's prepared to negotiate with the republicans and come up with a plan that falls within the framework of what we talked
about. >> i believe that, too. host: mr. woodward. guest: i ask the president about this two months ago. he said the proposals by the simpson-bowles commission included in eliminating some of the tax deductions are cutting back on the charitable deductions, health insurance deductions, and the mortgage insurance deduction, the president told me that those would be "wildly unpopular." they would never pass congress. i think he's right. you need some sort of serious tax reform negotiation that would take months, maybe a year, maybe longer. reagan did it in his presidency in 1986. they were able to lower the rates and are virtually get more money for the federal
government. it's harder now, but it's possible. this expression of confidence, erskine bowles and al simpson deserve a medal of honor for survival in pushing on the issues here. the problem is politics. this book is called "the price of politics" because when it comes to political calculations, they say we should not do something painful or, to use the president's expression, "wildly unpopular," he wants to get reelected. people in congress have the same feeling. we have not had this rolling up the sleeves engagement of stamina that is required that will become absolutely necessary in the coming months.
host: middleton, new jersey, thank you rating. caller: all the tax credits they wanted to eliminate happen to be focused on people who work for a living. that is the problem. the last republican president that had a balanced budget was nixon. we listened to eight years of a vice-president, dick cheney, telling us that deficits don't matter. we had $3 trillion in debt spending that was not put on the books that this president inherited. he had one year of working with the last president's budget, which was insane. he was handed a nation losing 800,000 jobs per month. he had a mountain and a shovel. the republicans say you did not
shovels fast enough. guest: ok. i think that's a fair point. i point out that the president was handed a floundering economy and a very recalcitrant republican majority in the house, at least for the last two years. at the same time, step back. speaker john boehner in one of the clips of their ran here talks about stepping back and looking at the forest. step back and look at the forest. this country has an economy which is in trouble and his bald, but compared to the other economies in the world, including china, we have got a lot of things going for us. if this were able to be fixed in a way -- you cannot do it all at once.
you're quite right. you cannot put it all on the backs of the workers alone. you have to spread out the pain in a way that democrats and republicans will not like. if you did something like this, you would get a sense of coherence to taxing and spending policy. it is the incoherence of those that causes ever want to say, i don't know if i should buy a new car, of expand and hire a few more people in my business. we are on the edge here when we would have come to use your analogy, -- we should have, to use your analogy, attack the mountain with the schauble. i could sit here with 20 expert for a day and come up with a
general outline of some of the things that needed to be done. in the end, it is about political will. if you do not have the political will to get up and say you're going to have to get their. the background music to all of this is the memory everyone has, particularly democrats, when walter mondale in 1984 ran against reagan and said, "i'm going to raise your taxes." mondale got slaughtered in that campaign. no one wants to tell the full story or the truth. the government's going to have to get revenue in the government is going out to cut back somehow. host: independence in st. louis, missouri. caller: in the end, mr. woodward, it is up to pays for the campaigns. i think you know that. first of all, since the tea
party republicans took over the house in 2010, congress has its lowest approval rating ever. after four years of obama, he is going up in the polls. secondly, i'm sure if the republicans controlled everything in november that they're going to make a voucher system out of medicare. this was before it was ever passed. they're not going to raise the taxes on those who pay for their election. guest: if the republicans take over everything, it will be on their backs to come up with some plan. you make some good points there. there is a way. simpson and bowles were on the road to some of that. where we are now is in trouble
and in peril. what i have tried to do is come in a way, in the end, for a reporter, it's not about the politics of it. it's not about a partisan position. out about trying to figure exactly what happened. the things in this book that democrats do not like it, republicans do not like it, it's what happened. you can look at it and you can save you should enrich your own conclusions. that is the reporting tradition that i come from. host: on our facebook page, --
guest: because the president is the leader. the president has this power. there is a phrase george uses in his diaries. he is the famous diplomat who came up with the containment policy. he talks about the treacherous curtain of deference. in the oval office, there is that treacherous curtain of deference where people will come in. my god, it's the president. he has an aura. he has the capacity to do things that no other leader does. you cannot say that it is the guy down the hall that is a staffer or the person who is the speaker of the house who does have immense responsibility for this. there is a way to lead. i have cited this before. go to december, 1941, pearl harbor is bombed.
the united states entered world war ii. it looks really grim. it looks like we possibly can not win this war. franklin roosevelt found a way to do it. leaders have to fix problems. i do not think it 1% of the people will remember who the speaker of the house is during world war ii. it is in the president's grasped. the president has that responsibility. what's interesting, i think president obama realizes that. i would expect governor romney, if he becomes president, would realize that, too. that is where the buck stops, as has been said.
host: on obstruction, we get a lot of people talking about what mitch mcconnell said, the republican's main goal after obama wins. your reporter about what he said and the full context of what he said. guest: he's a tough guy. his goal is to make sure that obama is a one-term president. my assistant dug in to that interview. we wanted to find out when mcconnell said that and exactly what he said. it turns out what he also said in that interview was, "i don't want obama to fail. i want him to change. i want him to be like bill clinton." that change of least puts that in context. i was on morning joe this morning and he said, "we have
strong him up for this time and time again. i think i owe him an apology when you see the context of in." whether there will be an apology, i don't know, but mcconnell was saying that he wants to work with this guy. he wants change. of course, change in his direction. host: a question off of twitter. good: that's a very question. ryan did not play much of their role. i have seen where he meets with cantor and they talk about boehner being off the reservation in negotiating things with obama that week, republicans, are not going to like. the ryan budget was something that was held off on because it had passed the house.
obama does not like it. democrats do not like it. it's interesting. there is a meeting where president obama calls harry reid and nancy pelosi to the oval office to lay out what you trying to do here. nancy pelosi, the democratic leader, is deeply concerned and worried that the president is going to cut medicare. she says, if we have a plan and actually cut medicare and democrats to go along, it will make the republicans hold in the rye and budget. it will eliminate a very clear distinction, at least in her mind, between the democrats and republicans on the very important issue of medicare. host: in other twitter question for you. guest: you don't know.
different personalities. different circumstances. when i was in the oval office a few months ago having interviewed president obama at great length about what happened and the key points in all of these negotiations, he just said to me, "if bob dole had been the senate minority -- the senate minority leader as he was in the clinton administration, we would have been able to work this deal out." whether that is the case or not, certainly, the president has a very strong argument that there is less flexibility in the house republicans now than there was during the gingrich era. host: is a piece, ""the price of politics" is much to do about nothing."
guest: i guess this person did not read the book. you repeatedly have scenes. where speaker boehner is considering whether to except more revenue as the president has proposed. he calls eric cantor and his chief of staff down to his office on the second floor of the capital. canto ofr has ties to the tea party. boehner lays out this proposal for more revenue. the chief of staff for cantor, who is in touch with the tea
party, to say the least, asks the speaker how many votes he thought he would get for that additional revenue. the speaker says about 170. the chief of staff says to him, "you're crazy." that is something you do not seem very often wear a staffer tells the speaker to his face that he's crazy. cantor essentially agrees and they conclude he would only get about 50 votes for the additional revenue proposal. this was when boehner essentially calls of any further negotiations or deals with the white house. the force of the tea party is explicit and real. host: democratic line,
institute, west virginia. caller: in west virginia, we had a governor who had a house and senate who would not work with him. therefore, he was not able to do anything in the state of west virginia. what i have seen is a duplicate of that with this congress. this congress has failed to do exactly what they have sworn to do. that is to support the constitution of the united states. when you're making laws, it is not your prerogative to put your party first. host: mr. woodward. guest: that, as i point out, in the book, there is a scene after scene where the republicans show that they're not going to budge on some of these things. in their view, they are adhering to the constitution. in their view, they're doing what is necessary.
the key point here is that speaker boehner is the nominal leader of republicans in the house and opened these negotiations last year with the president. there were all kinds of offers and discussions going back and forth on this. you can see the detail. you may blame obama. you may blame the republicans. you may blame me for writing about it. whenever it is. this is, if you will, the performance review. this is what we always used to call the best obtainable version of the truth. host: 1 last phone call for you, republican line in south carolina. caller: thank you, sir. please let me state a few facts. don't cut me off. host: we don't have time. caller: let me talk. i want to complement mr.
woodward on his book. i watched him on morning joe. here is a very intelligent man. the fact of what you get over this is, first of all, congress -- that want to remind everyone that for the last six years, they have had a majority of the senate. for four of the last six years, the democrats have had the congress. for only less than two eight years, the republicans have had a majority in the house of representatives. guest: that's true. at the same time, the problem has increased. as we spend $1 trillion per year more than comes in. i guess the point of all this is that it's just not over. we're going to revisit all these problems in the coming months.
host: that point, i just want to show this picture from your book of the speaker and the president right there. the look on their faces. if you could just speak to what happens next and the likelihood of these two coming together to talk again and relive what they did last year. guest: ok. i see the picture. yes, there are not happy. this is when the president, i believe, outed the meeting in his own house. sometimes, political leaders rise to the occasion and do things that are not in their personal political interests, their party's interest, but in the larger national interest. you're always looking for those leaders and those moments when they will say we've got to do something here. if something is not done -- i
hate to be an alarmist, but i'm going to be a realist. you just cannot keep doing what we've been doing. the problem is you do not know when the debt crisis finally rises to the surface and people out in the world and in this country say, at $16 trillion -- i emphasize trillion -- in i know you's out there, maybe the united states is not able to make good on them -- the i.o.u.'s out there, maybe the u.s. can't pay. . get a cascading explosion that can happen in financial markets when you have stock market crashes, bond market crashes. people will say they do not want to have those i.o.u.'s unless they're paid more
interest. the interest rates are very low. if they went up, but we could have to pay hundreds of trillions of dollars more in interest that would just add to the problem. it's not something to say it was only last year. it is this minute. host: bob woodward, thank you for staying at our table and talking to our viewers. i appreciate it. >> tomorrow, william beech has the latest survey on government dependence for housing, food, student aid and other programs. a discussion on jobs programs for veterans.
and a representative from the jobs injured -- institute talks about egypt. that is live it 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. aung san suu kyi is a pro- democracy leader in myanmar. she was a speaker on tuesday in a discussion that focused on me approach -- myanmar's to democracy. this is about an hour and 20 minutes. >> welcome to all of you. what a thrill to be here with you. this is aung san suu kyi's first
visit to the united states in 20 years. no? 40 years. [laughter] we have wonderful partners in the asian society and the full moon society and we have a great relationship with the state department's. a number of her colleagues are here. patrick murphy, michael posner, and in addition i would like to particularly recognize some of our board members -- including priscilla, and without her i do not think this event would have occurred. i would like to thank aung san suu kyi for coming and i would like to turn things over to
henry anaphoric her remarks. -- henry get up for the -- henrietta ford for her remarks. [applause] this is an extremely large and important pleasure welcoming you all here today. we welcome you and her delegation to washington. we have followed your struggle for these past two decades and have been inspired by your unwavering commitment to advancing human rights, justice in your country. secretary clinton, we are honored by your presence today. thank you for joining us, and thank you to your burma team for your leadership in strengthening u.s.-burma relations. my colleagues at the asian society are delighted to co-host today's event along with the
united states institute of peace, and jim, thank you -- congratulations on your appointment as president of this association. i would love to say our relationship with aung san suu kyi goes back to the 1960's when she was living in new york city and working at the united nations. we are so glad that some many of our friends and supporters are here with us today to welcome her back to the united states. we have been organizing programming emphasizing regional issues as well as art exhibitions and cultural performances. since its founding in 1966 by john d. rockefeller iii.
we have followed up a task force it on improving u.s.-burma relations with a follow-up. let me conclude by saying we recognize this is a most important moment in burma's history and we are committed to continuing this work. the asia society and our partners in this effort stand ready to help. thank you. jim? [applause] is my pleasure to introduce someone who needs no introduction -- secretary clinton.
[applause] >> it is wonderful to be back here for this extraordinary, a suspicious occasion. i want to congratulate -- auspicious occasion. i want to congratulate jim marshall on becoming president. we certainly want to work with you. i also want to thank the asia society. the commitment started in 1950's and it has very much stood the test of time. we very much look forward to working with you as well. the purpose for this gathering is quite an exciting one, because we have here an opportunity for someone who has represented the struggle for freedom and democracy, for human rights and opportunity, not only in her own country, but is seen as such around the world.
it is wonderful to see her back in washington as a free and forceful leader that is opening up to the world in ways that would have been difficult to imagine even recently. those flickers of progress that president obama spoke of last year ago summer have been growing and strengthening in the time since. and hundreds of prisoners of conscience have been released over the past year, including some this last week. opposition political parties have been legalized. restrictions on the press and on freedom of assembly have eased. we have seen laws enacted to expand the rights of workers to form labor unions.
and the government has reached cease-fires in long-running ethnic conflicts. her courage and leadership never wavered during years of house arrest and persecution. she and other prosecution leaders have joined with the new government to take the courageous step forward to drive these reforms. i have met with the president twice -- this summer in cambodia. i look forward to meeting him in new york next week for the united nations general assembly. at the state department, aung san suu kyi and i had a chance to talk about the work still ahead. and there is a lot of work. i think one of the important reasons for her work at this
time is to remind us how much reminds -- remain still ahead. strengthening the rule of law, democratic institutions, addressing the challenges in many of the ethnic conflicts. per government and the opposition need to continue to work together to unite the country, not heal the wounds of the past, and carry the country for. it is also a bar to guarantee against backsliding. there are forces that would take the country in the wrong direction if given the chance. so, we in the state department and the obama administration are certainly adverse to say that the process of reform must continue. political prisoners remain in detention. ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence continues to undermine
progress toward national reconciliation, stability and lasting peace. military conflict with north korea persists. and further reforms are required to strengthethe rule law, increase transparency, and address constitutional challenges. but the united states is committed to standing with the government and the people of burma to support this progress that has begun, that is still a work in progress. we have taken steps to exchange ambassadors, and ease economic sanctions, and pave the way for american companies to invest in the country in a way that advances rather than undermines. we have conflict -- contact with both government and opposition leaders. our first ever ambassador to this new burma, derek mitchell, is here with us today.
he and the assistant secretary kirk campbell are not only in constant communication, but ongoing consultation with many representatives of different constituencies in burma so we can provide the help and support that is necessary and appropriate. last december, i have the honor of visiting suu kyi in the house that was once her prison. we talked of many things including the challenge of moving from prison to politics. that is what her country needs from her now. i know a little bit about how hard that transition can be. if it exposes you to a new sort of criticism and even attacked and requires -- and even attack
and requires the pragmatic coalition-building that is the lifeblood of politics, but may disappoint the purists who upheld faith with you while you were on the outside. in the months since suu kyi locked out of house arrest and into the political our arena, she has proved to be unnatural, campaigning hard and staying focused on what needs to be done today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow to move her country forward. i think you are in for a great opportunity this afternoon, as will be many american audiences in the days ahead as she has a very generous scheduled activities. i unfortunately have to depart back to the state department, but it will be certainly a great pleasure for me now to introduce someone who is not only a nobel laureate and a hero
about 40 years ago in new york. it was nothing like this. [laughter] i remember that it was interesting and there was great interest in burma, even in those days. and for my speech on u.s.-burma bilateral relations. the first, i would like to say how happy i am to be with you today, with the people of the united states. we are not yet at the end of our struggle, but we are getting their. we have passed the first hurdle, but there are many more hurdles. i hope he will be with us as we make our way to the goal for which our people have been running for 50 years. because military dictatorship
came to burma in 1962. we're now in 2012. that is half a century. that is a long, long time for people to live under a dictatorship. what we have to do in the future is not just to build democracy in burma, but to rebuild our nation in a democratic mold. we will need help from our friends to understand and appreciate the value of democracy and democratic values. speaking of u.s.-bilateral relations, bilateral relations are shaped by politics, and these days by the communication revolution and globalization. the case between our two countries is particularly
illustrative of geopolitics. china and india -- the two biggest powers in asia -- and we share borders with asia and southeast asia. opposition is unique. any relationship with burma must take into consideration this situation. as soon as burma started re- engaging with the united states ,, or the other way around, questions were asked as to how this would impact on u.s.-china relations. people naturally associate u.s.- china relations with u.s.-burma relations. the remaining questions asked as to whether the united states engaged with burma -- engagement with burma was aimed at
containing the influence of china in asia. this is a natural question, and one that i think, if we have to answer honestly, cannot be answered simply. because i do not think that any country could claim either the united states or china or burma that our relations have nothing to do with the relations that we have with other countries around us. it is only natural that the united states relationship with burma should have some impact on united states relations with china. and also that our relations with the united states would impacts to a certain degree on our relations with china. but i think that this could be taken forward in a positive fashion. it does not mean that because burma is in beijing now with the
united states -- is in beijing now with the united states that the relationship with china should in any way deteriorate. also it does not mean the united states is engaging in burma. it should not be seen as a hostile step towards china. we can use our renewed situation to strengthen relations between all three countries. i will put it very simply. it would be to our advantage, the united states and china, to establish friendly relations. this would help a great deal. this is what i look forward to being -- this is what i look forward to. burma has had a history of preserving friendship with many different countries following different ideologies. as it was one of the first countries to recognize communist china back in the 1950's, it was
also the first country had particularly warm relations with india. when we became independent, we were considered the country most likely to succeed in southeast asia. this is an honor that we have lost for the last few decades. but we think we can regain this honor with the help of our friends, including the united states. as i said, bilateral relations are affected -- not just of geopolitics, but of history. it may not come as a surprise that historical a u.s. relations with burma were seen in the light of education and humanitarian help rather than economic or politics. to begin with, the first
american to become well-known in burma was a missionary. i can never pronounces first name. it is a very strange name for me to pronounced. he is a missionary who came to burma in the early 19th century. i have the date somewhere. i have to look it up. he became -- he worked very hard to establish a basis for missionary work in burma. he gained enough of the confidence of the burmese court to be able to reach out to some of the prince's. he wrote the first burmese- english dictionary. and he was widely respected. he died just off the coast of maine. obviously, his fate was linked to burma in many ways.
1 abu -- one of our first colleges was named after him. back in those days, we had two college's. university college and justin college. just in college was named after the missionary i have mentioned, and it was a college founded by missionaries. so, missionary work was the way in which americans first came to burma. and missionaries engaged in a lot of educational enterprise. it was interesting that in the days of colonialism there was a distinct difference between the educational system introduced by american missionaries and that introduced by catholic missionaries. the great majority of christian institutions in burma were either catholic or -- i mean
christian educational institutions and burma -- where other catholic or baptist. the catholics ran boys' schools ran by catholic priests, out whereas the mission set up a number of schools for girls as well as boys. b-girls schools were particularly well known. the difference between -- the girls' schools were particularly well non-. the difference between the schools was the american missionaries, they were very keen on preserving the traditional culture and manners of the people. so in the american baptist missionary schools, the girls wore burmese costume.
also, there were more inclined to take up christian names. whereas, the great majority of girls who went to other schools retain their burmese names and army's costing. the american missionaries also encouraged the preservation of burmese manners, so that the product of the abm schools were considered very proper, very well educated, but also very much aware of burmese manners of courtesy. my mother went to one of the schools. she went to a very famous abm school in rangoon. it was in a certain area of rain during. all that time, she was very
proper, very disciplined, very precise, very elegant. [laughter] i myself went to the english methodist high-school for a number of years, which is actually american methodist, although it is called english methodist high-school. i know a lot of hems. -- hymns. [laughter] it is ironic, because my mother in the day of colonialism or this custom. i went to the english methodist girls' school, i had to wear -- it was very strange. i also noticed there was less encouragement of burmese manners in the english methodist girls' school than there had been in my mother's back in 1930's, i suppose, when she was
there. so come and education was very -- so, education is very closely associated with american missionaries. and also health care. i think many of you have heard of the famous dr. c. graves, the burmese surgeon -- dr. sea graves, the burmese surgeon. when i was growing up, one of the very best hospitals in burma was considered to be that run by the seventh day adventist's. we associated americans in burma more with education and humanitarian help rather than politics or economics or democracy. the library in rangoon was also well-known.
and of course, we should not overlook the importance of hollywood films and pop music. but also better great influence on the young of burma in my day. and i think it still has a lot of influence on the young in burma now, in spite of the years spent under military dictatorship, when we were cut off from almost everything outside our own country. the years of military rule ruined this relationship between burma and the united states. by the way, i think i should make a point of saying there are people who refer to burma as myanmar. it is entirely a matter choice. i referred to burma as burma. this is the name by which we were known when we became independent and this is the name to which i am used.
but it is each individual choice which name he or she uses. relations between the two countries deteriorated. beginning in 1962, when the first military relationship took over. the first time was in 1968, but that took a couple of years. military dictatorship was once again instituted in 1962. we can say it was more or less unchanged until 2010. it is true that the caretaker government, the military caretaker government, it took on the name of the burma socialist party. in effect, it was very much
dominated by the military. since 2010, many things have changed. i will come back to that later. there was a general phobia of the burma socialist program party. it was not just the united states, but the western world in general that view with suspicion by the regime led by the then- dictator. the -- because of the xenophobia, we lost our connection with the west. in the old days, we spent many young people to study in institutions in europe and the united states. even before independence, we had quite a number study in the united states, usually sponsored by missionary organizations. after independence we expanded
our cultural and educational ties with the united states and because of the communist insurgency is that started soon after which you and the penchants -- independence, we also have relations with your country. after 1962, these relations dwindled to almost nothing. it was not just with the united states, but with the west in general that the military regime did not wish to deal. particularly after 1988. i am sure all of you know, there was a democratic uprising throughout the country in 1988 when people i asked for a multi- party democracy. they had seen that one-party dictatorship only brought the country from the state of prosperity to one of near- poverty, where we declared one of the least developed countries
in the world. as a result of the uprising, the military put down the demonstrators very brutally. with much bloodshed. the following years or some of the hardest our country has ever had to go through. it was the united states from the very beginning that stood firmly by the forces of democracy, and for this, i would like to thank all of you. because when people are in a difficult situation, we need friends. we need friends who are strong and who are committed. the united states was committed to democratic values and proved to be a good friend to all of those who struggle for democracy. but in the process, relations between the government's of the two countries deteriorated. less and less engagement, and
here, i would like to say that i have always been for an engagement. you can engage in different ways. you can engage as friends, or you can engage as people who have agreed to disagree, and this is, to me, a sad thing, that engagement between our two countries came to almost nothing during two decades. or more. but now, the situation has changed, because of what happened in 2010. to begin with, the military regime was replaced by a civilian regime, elected in 2010. i will be quite frank and say that we have grave doubts about the way in which those elections were conducted, and i think even the united nations, which is generally a very cautious about its remarks has admitted that the elections of
2010 were deeply flawed, and the government was a result of these elections. it was made up largely of previous members of the military. many of them, in fact, had been in the government, just until a few months before the elections, when they left the military to contest as members of the assembly. the change brought about in 2010 was questioned by very many who felt it is not enough just to have elections, which, as i mentioned earlier, were considered to be deeply flawed and where they had a so-called
elected civilian government. the democratic institutions had to be built, and the world was interested in finding out how this process was going to go, and the united states, in particular, was interested in how far on the path to democracy in burma was actually going to go. i would say that the real changes came about in 2011. i was released towards the end of 2010, but my party was then operating as an unregistered political party, or shall we say de-registered. we were contesting the elections of 1990, where we won over 80% of the seats, but the results of the election were not honored, so we remained, with
great difficulty, as a political party, still registered but not allowed to operate as a political party. during those years, i would say that u.s.-burma bilateral relations were democracy to democracy rather than government to government. after 2010, things began to change a little. there was a greater push for engagement with burma because of the new parliament and because i had been released. also, my party was still not registered because we had refused to take part in the 2010 election. our party would have to oblige
to expel all members who were under detention, including myself. also, we would have been obliged to reject the results of the 1990 election. more over, we would have to take an oath to uphold and defend the constitution of 2008. this is the constitution which we felt was not conducive to building of the genuine democratic society. apart from the fact that it would allow for an elected ministry representatives to take part in all of the assembly's from the national to the local levels, it also provided for the commander in chief to take over all parts of the government at any time that he considered necessary for the sake of the country. for this and other reasons, we
felt that we could not take the oath to defend and protect the 2008 constitution. there is a little story to that. when you read the constitution, you should read not only the body of the constitution, but the appendices. in 200011 when it was possible for our country -- 2011 what it was possible for our country and our party to be re-registered, the regulation for the election and the frustration would be changed. we would not have to expel -- and the registration would be change. we would not have to expel any members.
secondly, we would have to agree to abide by and to respect the constitution. which is fine by us. i think everyone has to do that in any country. also, the speaker of the upper house made a statement that the won. elections have been on this resulted in the project of that 1990 -- we contested 45 seats. these were the seats vacated by members of the government. under the constitution, if you become a member of the government, you need to vacate a parliamentary seat. we contested 44 of them. we won 43 of them.
i am annoyed to say that we lost one. [laughter] but this has made as the biggest opposition party in our national assembly. 44 is not too much. -- after just before w the elections that we have to look into the words of the oath that we would have to take. these remain the same as the previous election regulations we had to undertake to defend and protect constitution. there was a lot of soul- searching over this. we wondered on principle if we should refuse to do this. but politics is about compromise. it is about being practical. it is iabout being down to
earth and doing what is best for the circumstances. the people that voted for us that for very anxious for us to get into the national assembly. , butunderstood our dilemma o the great majority of our people wanted us to enter the national assembly and to serve them. on top of that, many of the nationalistic parties that a ready had representatives within the national assembly were keen for us to join them because they felt that this would strengthen us as -- i do not know if i should refer to them as opposition parties -- but the thought that they could work together with us.
so, in the end, i decided that we were the ones who had made the mistake of not looking through all of the appendices carefully, we have to confess our mistake and respect the will of the people that voted for us. also to respect our from the parties to work with us. we decided to take the oath. i took it, but we still stand by our party election platform. first is rule of law.
as the constitution itself allows for amendments and only with over 75% of the votes, at least one member of the military bloc would vote with us. still, i think we did the right thing when we decided to enter parliament. i think this was when we had to start thinking very seriously about new u.s.-firm of relations -- u.s.-burma relations? how genuine is it? those are the questions. i think these questions have not yet been been answered in their
entirety. how genuine is the process? how sustainable is it? it will depend on all of us. first of all, we need to depend on the people of burma. they are represented by those in the legislature. they have a lot to do with it. you must also remember that the reform process was instigated by -- i believe he is keen on democratic reform. but how the executive goes abroad implementing -- about implementing this is something we will have to watch. we have to think of the three part of democracy -- executive, legislature, and judiciary. we cannot judge how genuine or how sustainable the
democratization of burma is by simply looking at the executive or the legislation or the judiciary. if you look at the judiciary, you'll probably see nothing. [laughter] this is our weakest arm. we are trying to build this up in the legislature. we all have to work together. new u.s.-burma bilateral relations, i would like that in the recognition to get equal weight in the executive,